Recently, and much to my surprise, I have been invited by a famous blogger Le Clown to write a post for one of my favourite blogs; Black Box Warnings, (BBW).
Black Box Warnings is described as ‘a collective of bloggers who share their personal stories about mental and physical health, parenting, daily tribulations, and life’s little moments. An on-line community built around support, respect, and compassion.’
There have been many occasions when reading posts published on Black Box Warnings moved me to tears.
I have huge respect for Le Clown, his blogs, his unique brand of humour, and above all humanity he weaves through it all … thank you very much dear Le Clown for the invitation and the opportunity to write for Black Box Warnings. It is an honour.
In the interest of truth, I have to say that the post I wrote for BBW was not the one I originally intended to write. The post I planned on writing was to be an informative, research and facts based piece on challenges and complexities of mental illness in contemporary world. The post I actually wrote is below. It arrived unexpectedly and fought its way out with bitter determination. At the end I just typed. There is nothing more I can say about it.
Letter to my Father
I know you are dead.
This is why I am writing to you. From a house you have never seen. Nestled inside a city you have never seen. Both hidden on an island you have never seen. My outer landscape.
In a language you do not know. My inner landscape.
Both unknown to you.
You said I ran far away. You were right. I did.
I measured the distance between us by one measure only; immeasurability. That which cannot be measured, cannot be traversed. No distance ever forgets its origin.
When my daughter was born, your only granddaughter, I did not teach her to speak the only language you could understand. You said it was my choice. You were right. It was.
I chose her language by one criteria only; inability to keep secrets. To tell family histories. To pass on pain. She is a new person with a new language. I learned it with her. I learned it from her.
We are two new people now. In a new land. We have no past. Here, nobody knows her mother as your daughter.
A girl who cried for hours over an old photograph of you as a young man standing all alone in the middle of a frozen birch forest looking lost. Birch forests are the saddest in winter. Their long, pale limbs stretched as far as eye can see. Translucent with frost. And you could not have been more than 15 or 16 on that photograph. In an old army coat tightened across with a thick black belt. Your hands lost inside the sleeves. Only your shorn head bobbing in the sharp air.
You took the photograph from me and ripped it into shreds. You said I was a stupid girl for crying over it. There is nothing there to see, just an old, silly photograph, can’t even remember when it was taken. Or why it was taken.
It was all long time ago you said; the war, the mass graves hidden inside the birch forests, the shootings. And nobody could really tell if this is where your mother was shot. I must not listened people’s idle talk.
And now you are dead.
Your step-daughter, the one from your third marriage, sent me an email; your father died in the hospital earlier today, it said. They are going to notify your fourth wife and your son.
I never knew you had a fourth wife.
But I did know I have a brother. A half-brother. I tried to work out how old he might be now. He was born not long after you divorced my mother. I remember neighbours gossiping about it. Saying how happy you were with your second wife and son. You introduced me to him only once or twice, when he was already at school. I could tell something was wrong with him even then. When I asked you about him, you would get angry.
Soon you never spoke about him. We lost touch after his mother and I divorced, you would say. But I knew you were embarrassed. His mind did not work properly. He could not finish school, or hold a job. You did not want a son like that.
Or a daughter who asks questions you had no answers for.
When you married your third wife, I was already at University. You proudly declared how much you love her daughter. She was learning a useful trade and already knew how to cook and keep house clean. She also knew how to tell you things you liked hearing. All you ever wanted from a woman. I should try to be more like her, you said. And not waste time on useless dreams. No man would marry me.
You were wrong on both counts; I learned how to cook and keep house spotless. Some men wanted to marry me. Even to love me. But they never had a chance. Not on a long run. Not against the abyss you left. Poor bastards.
And now I am staring into this email for a long time. Waiting.
For tears to come. Daughters cry when their fathers die. And I am your only daughter.
But they did not come for a long time. Days turned into string of grey pebbles. Indistinguishable from others lying on the beach.
While my mind contracted with memories of you.
Cloud of dust your shiny car would raise on our shingle road when you came to visit. Sometimes you did. Always wearing nice clothes. They would fetch me to come and see my father. Be nice to him, they would say. He might give you some money.
You had a job and an apartment in the city. When you took me there I spent hours playing with your telephone. It was a first time I touched one. Nobody on our street had one. Or a colour TV. But I did not like watching TV with you. You would make me sit close to you and hold my hand tight. I felt sick. I wanted to go home.
You would get angry and drive me back to those losers and no hopers as you would say. Drunkards and vagabonds. Gypsies and story tellers. No good would ever come of me living amongst them. It was the only place I ever felt safe. And loved.
Every time I shot out of your car like a wounded animal. Running as fast as I could. Towards the small fires on the edge of our lazy river. Choking on tears of ridicule, shame and hurt. Vowing never to go with you again.
But you would always come back.
And I would always go with you.
Until the day I ran away. To the distance immeasurable.
Eventually my tears did come. They rolled down my face large and hot.
As hot as anger I felt for you. As hot as love I felt for you.
I sat next to the ocean and let the pain rip my chest open.
Hoping it will swallow it all in its vastness.
But sometimes not even ocean is vast enough.